Monday, February 03, 2014

What the Patriots (and Their Fans) Can Learn from the Super Bowl

For two weeks, Patriots fans have been comparing the Pats with the Broncos, and trying to imagine ways that the Patriots could be more like the Broncos. These people saw the Denver Broncos as a team with a high-flying offense, a full arsenal of receiving weapons, and therefore the team most likely to win the Super Bowl and the team the Patriots should try to emulate. Except the Broncos didn't win a Super Bowl. The Seahawks crushed them 43-8.

The Broncos didn't lose because of their offensive talent. They lost because they didn't execute and Seattle did. And Seattle also had more playmakers on defense, particularly rushing the passer.

A record-breaking offense beaten by a pass rush. Remind you of any other recent Super Bowls?

The Seahawks were the best team in the NFL and always were. Denver had the most spectacular offensive talent, but Seattle was strong on both sides of the ball. They didn't have All-Pro receivers, but their WRs were all talented (unlike the Patriots). They had a good QB, solid lines, decent WRs, an excellent running game, an elite defensive secondary that read plays incredibly well, and edge pass rushers who could pressure the opposing quarterback.

Patriots fans have been pining for their team to acquire Pro Bowl caliber receivers. And while that would be fantastic, maybe the Pats should try to build a team more like the Seahawks as opposed to the Broncos. We've gone down the 'Offense First' road in New England, and it didn't work. Maybe it's time to try a new approach.

By that I mean balance. More specifically, I mean a pass rush on defense balanced with the offensive passing game. Peyton Manning's poor throws and interceptions Sunday night were all a result of pressure. Pressure did more than just sack Manning. Manning was only sacked once (and he fumbled). Seattle pressured him on 3rd downs and forced mistakes: Incompletions, short completions, interceptions. The biggest plays of the game were caused by Seattle pressuring Manning.

I think it's more feasible to pressure one quarterback than it is to cover 4 receivers.

The Patriots must improve their WR corps. As I mentioned in parenthesis above, the Seahawks didn't have All-Pro WRs, but they did possess talent. Tate, Baldwin, Kearse, they're all more talented than Thompkins, and probably Dobson. All of them would have had jobs with the 2013 Patriots. And those Seattle WRs can thrive in different areas of the field, unlike the one-dimensional receivers the Patriots feature. However the Pats don't need to break the bank acquiring WRs to do well. I'd prefer a receiver big in height/weight as opposed to a big name receiver.

And to beat the other good QBs out there, like Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson; the Pats need smart DBs and a consistent pass rush. Limit the chances the opponent has to make plays and give your defense more opportunities to make them.

You could say that the Patriots, through injury and criminal activity, were limited in offensive playmaking. And look how important those limitations were in the playoffs. Acquire some DBs with awareness and outside pass rushers with strength and speed, and the Patriots can take away opposing playmakers just like injury and arrest took out the 2013 Patriots' playmakers.

So acquire WRs, but don't go nuts. Make sure to address the defensive backfield and pass rush. They'll help you find multiple ways to win. And pressure your opponent to find ways to lose.